Q&A: Waiting to claim Social Security benefits

Dear Liz: I am 64 and happily, gratefully receiving early Social Security benefits. My wife is 59, and when she turns 62 she will get half of my $1,650 monthly benefit. My question, though, is this: If she starts getting half of my benefit at 62, can she later switch to her own benefit? If she can get spousal benefits at 62 and switch to her own benefit when it maxes out at age 70, then starting early would be a no-brainer.

Answer: Yes it would, but that’s not how Social Security works.

First, your wife will not receive an amount equal to half of your check if she applies for spousal benefits before her own full retirement age, which is 66. Instead, she would be locked into a significantly discounted amount — closer to 35% of your benefit than 50% if she applies at 62. She also would lose the option of switching to her own benefit later. The “claim now, claim more later” strategy of starting with spousal benefits and then switching to one’s own benefit isn’t available to those who start early.

You’ve already left a lot of money on the table by starting benefits before you reached your own full retirement age. Having her begin benefits prematurely would just compound the problem. Remember too that when one of you dies, the other will have to live perhaps for many years on a single check. It makes sense to make sure that check is as large as it can possibly be.

AARP has excellent information on its site about Social Security claiming strategies, as well as a calculator that can help you see how much it pays to wait. Please educate yourselves before making a decision that you, or she, could live to regret.

Related Posts


  1. Dear Liz,
    My wife started drawing her SS at 62 and continued to work till she was past 65. She received a check from SS for nearly two years during that time.
    SS suddenly stopped sending her a check and is holding it until she pays every dime back that she was paid.
    We even have to mail a check to pay for her medicare each month
    They paid her roughly 28000.00 and that will all be paid in Oct
    She will start getting a full check in Nov
    So when all is said and done will they recalculate her SS and she will start getting paid at age 65 rate or will she still be stuck at the age 62 rate ?
    Any info is appreciated